Sunday, November 27, 2016

Awful, Beautiful Life

My husband has served in the Navy for 10 years. I'll be honest, it took me years to adjust to this lifestyle. In my defense, I was seventeen years old when he enlisted and I was twenty when I became his wife. I grew up fast, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I was thrown into a world that was completely foreign to me. Being that neither one of us grew up as a military brat, we were navigating this new world completely on our own. I learned very quickly that I have no control over what happens in my life. He missed anniversaries, birthdays, and countless holidays. I was always alone as he was always gone. We have done our fair share of moves and my husband has deployed three times. I have always been proud to be a military wife. It gave me a different sense of pride in my husband. I was the only one in my group of friends that was with someone in the military. It made me special. The major thing that was a constant occurrence in our lives was the fact that we could never really talk about what was actually going on in our lives. My husband is an IT, so we never talked about what his job entailed but along with that, we rarely talked about big changes in our lives (deployment dates, homecoming dates...dates in general) partly because of security reasons, but mainly because things are always subjected to change. I can't could how many times things would be going one way and then bam, within a few hours the entire plan has changed.

So why am I writing about this? Well, this life that we have grown to know, the life we have grown together into, is ending in the next few months. I know, it's a surprise to us too. If you think back to my last post, I had terrible news. Josh's tumor had spread and they were to cancel our VA board and his medical retirement. Well, things have changed. Literally in a few days our life flipped around and we were finally given good news. After that post, Josh walked in Tuesday morning to muster and his liaison between us and the med board handed him his VA ratings! He came home, handed them to me and we both just sat there in disbelief. I kept telling him "They were supposed to cancel these! What the hell!"After months and months of waiting, I was actually pissed off that they didn't get canceled! Go figure, lol. After collecting ourselves, we walked over to Navy Safe Harbor to see what our options were. I had assumed that the results held no value since they were supposed to be canceled. NOPE! We were told that if we wanted to accept the finds, we could and we could actually go home! We of course didn't want to make such a huge decision right away so we went home to weigh our options. You are allowed 10 days to either accept or decline your ratings. That mean't we had 10 days to get our life in order and develop a plan. Our first order of business was to get Josh's oncologist on board. I was nervous to do this as we had already started planning on starting another round of chemotherapy. Luckily for us, his doctor is very understanding and he always treats his patients with their best interest at hand. So, I had the daunting task of asking for his professional opinion. We could stay up here for almost two years and have Josh go through another round of chemotherapy, in a place that we honestly hate OR go home and have him be happy going through chemotherapy around friends, family, and in our house with our dog. Easy choice right? Well, we weighed more than just that. We have fantastic doctors up here and though we hate this place, we are offered way more medical advances then what we would find in small town Palm Bay. Honestly, it was down to stay here and have great doctors but be miserable, or go home, be happy and still get a great doctor. So I sent the best email of my life to his oncologist. I pleaded our case. His doctor emailed me back hours later and had no objection to us going home. He even offered up a referral for a doctor in Orlando and a treatment plan. Along with that, he set us up with a second opinion with a Oncologist at Johns Hopkins as well as an appointment at NIH to be placed in the system for drug trials.

The appointment at Johns Hopkins was with a colleague of our doctor. We were mainly there to just get a second opinion, what our options were, and if he agreed that we should go home to Florida or not. If you saw on Facebook, I was really into this doctor. He explained a lot of things to us, a lot more in detail about Josh's cancer and the treatment options offered to him. My husband though, was more into how cool the toilets were at the hospital, haha. All in all the doctor didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, except for the fact that Josh has a slow growing tumor and that he thinks we will be okay with delaying chemotherapy for a couple of months. Our appointment to NIH was nothing crazy (and their bathrooms weren't super cool!) We met with a doctor that said Josh will qualify for a drug trial coming out later next year. However, this drug trial is only offered up here so that would mean us having to come back up here for treatment. While we are not completely apposed to the drug trials, Josh's body responded really well to the first round of chemotherapy. Along with that, Josh is considered very healthy aside from the cancer and crohns. A drug trial could make this worse. It could cause new symptoms or make him even more sick. (Josh's edit: Even though the bathrooms weren't cool, they had two huge fish tanks in the admissions and clinic area that were pretty freakin' cool. It made up for their bathrooms not being cool)

So we weighed our options, talked it over with a lawyer, and we finally came to a decision. On Monday, November 14th Josh signed his ratings. He received a 100% on both the VA side and the DOD side. He will get tricare for life and he will receive 75% of his base pay for the rest of his life. I honestly feel as if a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. The next month or so will fly by and soon enough we will be home in Florida. Josh has to do the normal check out but it shouldn't be to crazy. We are so anxious to get home and move into our house!

This past week was Thanksgiving. We were able to have my mom fly up here to celebrate it with us and my brother's family. Last Tuesday we had an appointment with Josh's oncologist to meet up with him and discuss what the results were from our second opinions. He actually wanted to start Josh on chemotherapy this up coming Tuesday and we decided against it. I strongly feel that Josh needs to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas on his terms. Both doctors agree that we can wait a month or two so Josh will start treatment when we move home or at the latest, February. Thanksgiving was great and I was so happy to be surrounded by family. In two weeks, Josh and I will be flying home to spend Christmas in Florida. We will be there for 10 days and I am so excited to be hosting dinner at our house.

Above all else, the one thing that this cancer has taught me is that you can never plan for anything. The moment you feel as if you have a routine down and you can take a breath, life throws a wrench into all of your planning and you're scrambling to get your life back in order. While most people look at this situation as a daunting task, I have grown accustomed to it. My life is full of ups and downs, twist and turns and it is never a dull moment. For that I am thankful. For my husband I am thankful. And for this time I have with him, I am forever thankful.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Life sucks sometimes

It's amazing to me how one thirty minute appointment can flip your entire world upside down. You would think after being in the thick of it, we would be used to devastating news, but from personal experience I can say, you never really get used to it. Before I dive into this life altering news, I'll give you all a back story. Last Tuesday (Oct 18th) we got news that Josh was approved for TAD orders. This was something that has been in the works for MONTHS..when I say months, I truly mean it. His command finally got it push through and they were allowing us to go home and wait until Josh's VA results came in. We were so excited as it was one step closer to moving on with our lives. We packed some of our stuff up from our apartment and had it shipped down to our house. I had started looking at schools to apply for my graduate degree and had spoken to my mom about working with her part time. The only thing left to get these orders finalized was to have a few signatures. We had to have the approval of his oncologist, his Navy safe Harbor rep, and his VA liaison. We made an appointment to see his oncologist and on Sunday Oct 23, Josh did his two month check up MRI at 4am. Our appointment with his oncologist was this past Tuesday. We walked in with high hopes, considering every past MRI scan Josh passed with flying colors. We were excited because all we needed was these three signatures and we could book our flight home.

Walking into the room, I immediately knew something was wrong. Josh's oncologist (we will call him Dr. T) and him have a great relationship (as everyone who pretty much does when they meet Josh). They usually banter back and forth about music, videogames, and movies. Josh is always wearing either a really nerdy shirt (star wars are his favorite) or something music related. Dr. T has known Josh from the very beginning and has always made it a point to make Josh feel welcomed and not as just another patient. This particular day the appointment started off as any other appointment but it felt forced. It felt as if he was softening the blow. The moment he brought up the scans, I knew something was wrong. We usually review the scans later on in the appointment or maybe sometimes not at all if there is nothing to report back. This time however, the scans were up. Josh's brain was plastered on the screen for all to see. Now, I am not doctor. I don't spout off medical jargon and I don't claim to know what words mean or what particular conditions are. All I can say is that his scan scared the hell out of me. We all know that Josh has a tumor growing in his left side of his brain. What size it is, I have no clue. I'm sure I could ask, but honestly I don't want to know. I think if I did, I would obsess over it. So this tumor that is there has decided to spread it's ass over to the right side of his brain, causing a new growth. Again, I have no idea how big that one is BUT what I do know is that it's new. We are talking like months new. Dr. T brought up the scan from August and it wasn't there (or maybe it was, I ain't no doctor) but from what he says it wasn't noticeable. So in two months, this tumor has spread over to the right side of his brain. My trooper of a husband took the news as well as he could. He didn't break down and cry (yet) he just held his composure and made it through the appointment. We talked treatment options and most impacting, Dr. T told us to cancel the orders. Once out of the oncology unit, we sat in the front of the hospital and just cried. Dealing with this disease has made us strong but this particular news took the rug right out from under us.

So what does this mean? Well first off, Josh has had no symptoms of this new growth. He hasn't had a seizure in almost two years (knock on wood) and in the past two months has only had one or two headaches. Nothing crazy. No tall tail signs, so these results were a huge slap in the face. Dr. T offered us three options.

  • Do temozolomide. This was the chemotherapy he did for a year last year. It worked really well but Dr. T would want to up his dose. 
  • Do another form of chemotherapy (I don't remember the name and googling it brings me to all types of prescription names). This one would be in a high dose, probably terrible side effects and it also comes with a very strict diet. Super strict. Like annoyingly strict.
  • Drug trial at John Hopkins. Suprise! My husband has a very rare brain cancer. Like rare of the rare, so he never qualifies for a drug trial and actually this trial isn't for the particular cancer it's more for the mutation in said cancer. We don't know if he fully qualified or even what stage the drug trial is in but Dr. T seems hopeful. 
For now, we are waiting on Dr. T to go to a tumor board where he will discuss Josh's case with other doctors and see what they bring to the table. There is also a chance that Josh might have to go back in for a brain biopsy. This will only happen if there isn't any viable tissue from the first biopsy. Dr. T is almost certain that there is a small sample available but if not we will have to prepare for that too. Luckily (or unluckily? who knows) radiation isn't an option. Last time it swelled Josh's brain so much and he was having so many seizures that it probably did more damage than good.

Not only does this mess up our immediate plans to go home and chill until results comes in, it literally screws EVERYTHING up. Josh was in his "final stages" (I say "final" because honestly we have no idea where he was in it) of his med board. Being the fact that they won't release someone without fully treating them, it means his med board has be stopped and he will have to resubmit everything all over again once he is stable again. At first I was bitter about it, but now I have realized that there is a reason we are still here. We are getting the best medical care and Dr. T isn't to proud to say that if he doesn't know, he will find someone who does. So, the connection at John Hopkins is linking us with one of the top doctors in this field. That is something we won't get in Florida and quite honestly would have been a reason for us to come back up if we were down there. We have his appointment on November 9th. It's a second opinion as well as a consultation. They are also going to see if he qualifies for the drug trial.

I am a firm believer that there is a reason for everything. Right now, I haven't figured out what that reason is. I have no idea why life keeps serving us shit sandwiches and it's something I may never know. But what I do know is that I am thankful we caught it quick (we were actually going to blow off this MRI and just get it done once we were down in Florida) and I am thankful that there are options. Right now, Josh and I are still processing everything. Regardless of what treatment we choose, we will be staying up here way longer than what we intended. Does it suck ? Terribly. But we, like always, try to make the best of the situation. That's all we can do.

At this moment, today, we are still processing it. We have basically locked ourselves in our apartment and aside from appointments and our support group we have limited our interactions with the outside world. If you message either one of us, I can't guarantee we will respond as it is still a fresh wound and we are trying to manage it. I ask for support and understanding in this time and I urge you all to please not message him asking questions about this. He always welcomes messages of encouragement and support but right now it is something we still know nothing about. In due time, when more information comes about I will keep all in the loop.
However, we do ask all of you to continue to pray for Josh and our family. My husband is a fighter and he's stubborn as hell so I know he won't go down without a fight. This a speed bump in the road and just like last time, I know he will kick ass.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rockstar for a Day

I figure I should start this post out with two PSA's to everyone. First off, I would like to clarify one thing. Josh is considered terminal. I know, it's hard to hear, and because of that it is a subject that we tend to shy away from. From the get go we have always said he is just inoperable, often to just soften the blow. Most people don't know how to react when they hear the word terminal. It has even taken us months and months to be able to say it and we still hate it. We prefer inoperable; it's easier to say and it's straight to the point. The truth is his tumor will never be operated on and it will never be removed. The word inoperable doesn't carry the weight terminal does. I strongly apologize to those who have just found this out. We were not trying to keep it a secret, it was just our way of working through the emotions attached to that awful word. Second PSA is a piggy back to the first one. As many of you know, Josh was granted his dream day wish yesterday. This however, has nothing (and I truly mean, nothing) to do with his current health situation. Josh is as healthy as he can be with cancer. So just because his wish day was granted, doesn't mean things are bad. I consider this blog a viable way to connect with family on a personal level, so yes, if things were bad, I would have written about it. Now that that is out of the way, I'll tell you about the day my husband was truly treated like a rockstar. 

If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that when people get diagnosed with a terminal illness, they want to go and do the most extreme and craziest things. I was actually watching Last Holiday a few weeks back. If you haven't seen it, Queen Latifah's character is diagnosed with a terminal illness. After she realizes she hasn't done anything spectacular with her life, she withdraws her life savings and flies off to Europe where she goes on amazing adventures and experiences new things. Now, Josh and I are no where near financially set to just blow money on a lavish adventure as the money would run out quick but, I get it. Money is just money. One way or another it will replenish itself. After watching this movie, I have been racking my brain thinking of something amazing to do for Josh. My husband can be broken down to the core with a few interest; music, fish, hockey, and video games. I will never in a million years see him jump out of a air plane and go skydiving or bungee jump off of a bridge over open water. I did my research and I came up with incredibly expensive trips to remote islands where he can spend his days snorkeling and fishing. I came up with great trips we can take around the states and even overseas. All of them were good ideas and they are definitely things that we will do, but I wanted to give him the once in a life time experience. One of those days where he is completely in awe the entire day and one where he was treated like the badass he is.

I have a confession, I always enter Josh into things. I usually keep it from him only because I never want to get his hopes up. Over the past year or so, I have entered him into winning concert tickets, trips to Hawaii, and countless other sweepstakes. Now, this most recent thing I entered him into is no sweepstakes. It isn't a contest in any sense of the word. I was scrolling through my facebook one day and saw a post from Avenged Sevenfold. I was actually hoping it was a tour schedule that had dates closer to us as we were looking at seeing them sometime at the end of the year in a odd state...I think Tennessee..all I remember is we would have to travel a little bit. Anyway, I actually read the post and the first sentence or so it said something about patients with terminal illnesses. Immediately I knew I had to put Josh's name into the mix. It was for a foundation called Living the Dream foundation that connects terminally ill patients with musicians and allows them to live like a rockstar for the day. I got the email address and wrote them a pretty lengthy email explaining Josh's medical issues. I was set on not telling him as I had to include three bands that Josh would love to meet. I didn't want to get his hopes up by promising something I couldn't fulfil. When I was proofreading the email, I felt as if I had to make sure he was okay with me telling a complete stranger his medical history. Unfortunately I wasn't able to keep this one a secret from him but at the time I really thought we would just get lost in the foundations email, never to be seen. A couple days after submitting the paperwork, we went to see Josh's cousin, Josh and his band DVWNS perform in Pennsylvania. As we were waiting for them to set up, I received the email saying the foundation was requesting more information! They wanted to know more about his story, to be able to contact his doctors and to finalize what bands he wanted to meet! We were SO excited! After re-submitting the paperwork, we waited a few days. I'm not exaggerating that, it was such a quick process! On September 8th, I was sitting in the hallway waiting to go into my doctors appointment. I usually turn my phone onto vibrate before going in and when I went to do that I noticed I was getting a phone call from California. Thinking it was a telemarketer, I was slightly annoyed and answered it hoping to get them off of the phone before my doctor walked in. When I answered it, the lady introduced herself as working with the Living the Dream foundation and then she told me that they would be honored to have Josh and I be their VIP guest at the Rock of Allegiance festival! She explained that we would be able to go backstage, to meet Avenged Sevenfold and to see them perform. We had no words and honestly had no idea still what was in store for us.

The next week and a half went by incredibly slow. It reminded me of our deployment days when I anxiously counted down to him coming home. We were nervous. We were anxious. We were so excited we couldn't contain it. When Saturday came around, we had the jitters even driving to the hotel. That night I got probably a total of three hours of sleep. My anxiety was through the roof. My lovely husband though was snoozing away, having no trouble sleeping. We learned from Warped Tour that Josh can't do a full day of a music festival. His stamina is still not where it should be and he gets tired quickly. I wanted to make sure that he had the best day so we decided to head to the festival a few hours after it had started. We were told to meet some people at the ticket booth and they would have our tickets. We met up with Kacie who was our escort for the day and we met Scott who founded the Living the Dream Foundation. The entire day they made sure Josh was doing okay, constantly handing him water and checking in to see if there was anything we needed. Within a few hours we felt like we had known these people our entire lives, which honestly made the day a thousand percent better. The Rock Allegiance festival set up is wayyyy less complicated than Warped Tour. There are three stages, two main ones and one off to the side. They had vendors and food trucks but it was simple and straight to the point, music was the priority. We were escorted backstage where we were able get food and talk with the foundation. Afterwards, I headed to the bathroom and left Josh with the group. While waiting, Josh was introduced to the lead singer Of Mice & Men. He had no idea who he was and he was already fangirling, haha so I was excited for the other meet and greets we were going to do. We then walked over to one of the main stages to see the tail end of a band performing. When they finished, we walked over to the other main stage and watched Sevendust perform, and wow, they put on a great show! After that, we waited between sets and decided we wanted to see Of Mice and Men perform. We figured after meeting the lead singer a few hours prior, we should check them out. We became instant fans. We were able to stand on the side of the stage and watch the entire set! Once they finished, we walked over to the other main stage and stood off on the side of the stage to watch Killswitch Engaged perform, which was awesome! When they finished up, we decided Josh needed a break and we just sat in the stands. We were scheduled to meet Pierce the Veil at 6:00 before they went on. Josh and I were so pumped to meet them as we are both huge fans. We saw them perform at Warped Tour a few years back and were planning on seeing them in concert soon. They were seriously the sweetest most genuine guys. We chat with them a few minutes and then took a bunch of pictures before they prepped to go on stage. Like the previous performances we were able to stand on the stage off to the side. It was a great performance and it was even better being so freakin' close!

After their performance, Josh and I had some time to kill so we walked around and went to the different vendors. We stopped by Fuck Cancers booth and bought some merchandise and we went to the FYE tent and picked up Avenged Sevenfold's vinyl album in hopes we could get them to sign it. We walked back to the VIP area and anxiously waited for our meet time at 8:30. The minutes ticked by so incredibly slow. Finally around 8:20, we walked over to the dressing room area to get ready to meet Avenged. Josh and I were both pacing back and forth and I was trying to calm my anxiety! When they gave us the go ahead to walk in, I pushed Josh in front of me, half because it was his dream and the other half because I was SO nervous! We walked into the room and Zacky Vengeance (guitarist and backing vocals) was sitting on the sofa. I immediately recognized him (I had a HUGE crush on him when we saw them back in 2011 and a girl doesn't forget her first rockstar crush, haha!) Josh sat next to him and we talked about everything. He wanted to know about Josh's diagnosis, how we had met, where we were from, and everything in between. A few minutes into it the rest of the group came in and introduced themselves. We all sat around talking about Josh's time in Iraq/Afghanistan, how their music helped him get through some dark times, how their music inspired him to make it through each day and then they started talking about fish and food, Josh's two loves besides me and Archie! We then decided to do some photos together where they let us hold their guitars! We then brought out the merch we wanted them to sign and they gave us a signed set list and a handful of guitar picks. We then said our goodbyes and were escorted back to the stage area to wait for them to come out. We were issued our VIP passes and were told that we had our own special area on the stage that only Josh and I will be standing at. HOLY CRAP!

They came out and did their pre show prep, jumping around and amping each other up. Before they went on stage, every single member gave Josh and I a good luck fist bump. When they took the stage, I got goose bumps! We watched the entire show right next to Synyster Gates (Brian, lead guitar and back vocals) and the entire time they were shooting us funny faces and giving us thumbs up. It was truly amazing to be in between the power of the musicians and the screaming crowd. It really is a different experience! Half way through the show the lead singer Matt, started talking about 9/11 and how we should honor those lost and those fighting for our freedom. He then looked over in our direction and asked for Josh to join him on the stage! I think Josh's heart hit his stomach when that happened! Matt introduced him to the entire stadium (I have no idea how many people were there, but it was a football stadium and the entire floor was full of people) and thanked him for his service. I started balling! My husband was on stage with Avenged freakin' Sevenfold! Josh walked back to me and I think he needed a moment to compose himself, haha. We finished the concert and said our goodbyes to everyone that made this day possible. Josh walked away and said "That was hands down one of the best days of my life...well besides our wedding day, but it's pretty damn close!"

Words cannot express how grateful I am to Scott, Kacie, and the entire Living the Dream foundation. I'll be honest, a month prior I had no idea who they were. I had no clue how much they would impact our lives. I knew that I wasn't able to give my husband a day he deserves, but I am so grateful for fate that lead me to this wonderful foundation. I really can't say it enough how amazing they are. I am also so thankful to Pierce the Veil and Avenged Sevenfold who took time out of their day to make his. The memories we made that day will be used on the bad days to remind us that we are not alone in this fight and will keep pressing on. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Long write?

*blows the dust off of the blog*

*wipes away the spider webs*


It's been about four months, so I figured it's about time to update this! It is really hard to keep up with writing. As much as I love it, I often find myself at a writers block. Last year, chemotherapy gave me monthly update material, now I find it really hard to keep up with monthly updates. Today though I had a sudden urge to want to write, sooo here it goes! First off, I'll give you all an update on the main focus of this blog, my lovely husband, Josh. My husband is a true fighter. He rarely complains. He only takes breaks when desperately needed. But mainly keeps moving along and doesn't allow the cancer to slow him down. Last MRI (which was about a month ago) showed nothing new. He is still stable and the tumor is still there. We have looked into exploring different treatment options offered off of base as well. We are trying to stay clear of random drug trials for the simple fact that we don't want to make his condition worse than it already is. I have witnessed many patients become worse due to the drug trial they were on rather than get better. For now, Josh is in great health, we don't want to add more symptoms into the mix. He has been seizure free for a year and six months and he hasn't experienced any symptoms as a result of the tumor.

So what's going on with us? Well...nothing much really. Aside from maybe the one appointment we go to a month, it's really just us hanging out and spending time with each other. Our medical life has really slowed down. More often than not our days consist of what ever we want to do. It's great that we are fortunate enough to have this time were neither one of us are working and we get to spend all of our time together. Since hockey season ended (boo!) we have been going to Nationals games. While it's not the same exciting game as hockey, the baseball games fill the void until hockey starts again. We have also been going to A LOT of concerts! In April, we went to see The Used preform. We also went to see Pete Davidson from SNL do his stand-up, which was hilarious. For Josh's birthday, I bought him tickets to see Get the Led Out, which is a Led Zepplin tribute band. He has always been a huge fan of Led Zepplin and the chances of us seeing the real group are pretty slim, so a cover band was the second best! This past week we were able to see Mike Posner preform. I was nervous to ask Josh to go with me as he doesn't really like his music. Half way through (and three beers in) I noticed him swaying along with the music and he said he actually had a really good time! This past weekend we also went to Vans Warped Tour. It was our second time together, my fourth one over all. It was amazing. The line up was filled with bands we listened to in high school. We also met New Found Glory and were able to get their signature on their new coffee table book.

 Along with concerts, we have also gone on three trips. Our first one was going rock fishing in the Chesapeake. It was sponsored by the base and Josh was interested in going but was not completely sold on the idea. I went ahead and signed us up. Lately I have noticed he fights me on things that he has never done before. He is stubborn as hell and is very much a creature of habit. So taking him out to fish in the bay for a fish that he has never caught and using equipment he has never used, he was extra stubborn! Surprisingly though, he caught the biggest fish, he reeled it all in on his own. and when we got off of the boat he thanked me fore signing us up. Our second trip, we went sailing with his support group. Once again, he was so annoyed that I signed us up. Personally, I didn't care. I was so excited to go sailing as I have never been. Once again, he embraced the situation and even steered the boat! It made me extremely happy to see how calm and happy he was. Our last trip we took was for our anniversary. We decided to get completely out of Maryland (the one trip he didn't fight me on!) and we picked West Virginia. We rented a suite at a resort for three nights and it was complete heaven. We took a tour of a cave, ate too much food, and lounged in our HUGE tub every single night. It was a much needed break from our reality.

Speaking of our reality, it has finally sunk in that we are homeowners. I get the little reminder every month when our mortgage, water bill, and power bill are due. My parents (who are totally awesome, no sucking up here, they are literally the best!) ripped out all of the carpet out of the house and my dad installed hardwood floors in the rooms where the carpet was. He also painted Josh's room the exact color Josh wanted, really really really green! (I really can't remember the "official" name of the color, but I think they should change it to really freakin' green!) Seeing it in pictures is completely different then seeing it in person. When my dad first painted I kinda hated it. Of course I couldn't tell Josh that, he would have been crushed. But when I saw it in person, I fell in love with it. It's completely Josh and to be honest, it's his room. He's allowed to do whatever he wants to it. Along with the flooring and painting, we have been doing little things here and there. Josh and I went home to Florida for the week of the fourth of July. We were able to tackle the landscaping and do minor fixes around the house. My dad just has to fix the tile and it will be completely move in ready!

Now onto the one annoyance in our lives. Right now we are in the waiting period of the MEB process. In the beginning of June we received his NARSUM, which is basically a run down of him as a patient and all the conditions he will be filing with the VA to receive benefits. Luckily for us, the packet came back perfect. We didn't have to file additional claims or any paperwork to have it changed. It was a huge weight off our chest because I have heard horror stories about that process. So now, our packet has moved it's way up to the VA and we are waiting to hear what Josh's ratings will be. We submitted three conditions; Crohns, Brain Cancer and Epilepsy. There isn't much to do now, just twiddle our thumbs and wait for the VA to give us the go ahead to retire. We are still shooting for October to move home so everyone keep their fingers, toes, and all other body parts crossed that we get to move home then. I am SO ready to move on with our lives!

I really would like to thank all who read this. I know I don't actively post, but I love being able to give you all a glimpse into our lives. It's not glamorous or even really that exciting. However, it is full of experiences and time spent with each other. I have had a few friends tell us that they are jealous of all of the things we get to do and that I really seem to flaunt how awesome our life is. To that I say, screw you. Yes, we get to meet celebrities. Yes, we get free tickets to sporting events. We have been to some pretty cool trips to DC. We have been in places that the general public can't access. But, it's all at the cost of my husband having cancer. It's almost as if people expect us to wallow in our self pity and complain about the cards we have been dealt. That has never been and never will be us. We are grateful for every opportunity that has been given to us, but I would give it all back if it meant my husband didn't have cancer. More than anything, I urge those who have never dealt with this deadly disease to think before they speak. To realize that you have everything we want and to just be grateful for everything you have. Just like us, your entire world can be flipped around due to cancer.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Back when I had worked at Yellow Umbrella, I had worked with someone who found their house via the Internet. They lived in New York and were looking to buy a house down in Florida. I can't remember the circumstances, but I know that they were not able to see the house prior to closing on it. I remember thinking they were crazy! Buying clothes online? I do that all the time. Buying a furniture online? I have done that too. Buying a car online? I'm sure you would want to test drive it first, but imagine its been done before. But a house? No. Freaking. Way.

Fast forward...five years? And I am proud to say we did the same exact thing!

Okay, let me back track a little more. We started looking at houses in November of last year...surprise! We didn't tell anyone mainly because we felt it was no ones business. I know I wrote about it in the previous blog, but no one knows the extent of what we were going through. We found out that Palm Bay was perfect for our budget and perfect for us. Moving home was never a question, it was something that we both felt we would ultimately do. So, we looked at house after house after house. I downloaded the Zillow app and received constant updates on houses for sale in that area. November, we both agreed, was to early to even think about purchasing a home. Instead, we decided to get our finances in order and to start the process for a VA loan. Josh and I have always been a team when it come to money, we both handle bills and we both handle anything that comes up within that. We decided to pay off our debt (yay adulthood!) so we walked into the loan process completely free of debt. We were approved for our VA loan at the end of December. January came around and we figured it was time to get serious about a house. We were fortunate enough to have both of our parents available through this whole process. I would find a house and have my mom drive by and see if she liked it. This went on for countless houses. I'm not exaggerating when I say, we probably looked at 50 or more houses! At this point, they all started to blend together. We would find one and we would also find 10 million different things wrong about it. We became set on finding a move in ready house. We didn't want to do major renovations, that cost time and money that we really didn't want to put in.

January 18th, Josh and I had decided to take a break from everything and try to find a place to play putt putt golf. We both were stressed beyond belief. That weekend prior we had my mom look at few places, two of which we were on the fence about putting an offer in on. We really didn't have our heart set on either of them. We were convinced that the perfect house would still come along. We drove to Gaithersburg in search of a place called Monster Golf. We walked in and immediately walked out, it wasn't what we were looking to do. Disgruntled we walked back to the car, where I checked my phone for a notification I had received. It was Zillow notifying me that there was a new house on the market in my area. Yay. Another one. I remember opening the link and casually flipping through the pictures and I remember turning to Josh and say "oh this one looks hopeful." To which he said "can we just look at it when we get home..lets go". Off we drove to the apartment. During the drive, my Realtor had sent me the same listing...fate? We got home and really looked at the pictures. We completely fell in love. The kitchen, the bathrooms, the bedrooms, everything..was perfect. My parents were scheduled to look at a different house later that day so I asked my Realtor to add this one to the list. The next few hours Josh and I waited by the phone. I really wanted my parents to agree with us on this one. It hit every mark. Budget, location, move in ready. My parents went to the showing and while they were there, my mom called me and said "you better put an offer in." My heart raced. I looked at Josh in complete panic and we both agreed this was the one. We put an offer in and waited to hear back. We were also suggested to write a letter to the seller to, well, sell ourselves. We were competing with another couple. My anxiety was through the roof and I remember pacing back and forth in our apartment waiting for the phone call back. We received the contract via email and had 10 minutes to sign it. YES! 10 MINUTES! Lucky for us, I am a fast reader but in that moment I couldn't for the life of me focus! We read it, signed, and sent it back. The wait was killing us. More pacing happened and I was on the brink of tears (which was the start of a panic attack) when my phone rang. My Realtor had put me and my mom on a three way phone call and told us that our offer was accepted! I cried. I know it's cliche, but all the stress finally released! Now comes the boring part, all the paper work involved. The process itself was as stressful as you would image. I would sit and drink a few glasses of wine at night to just calm myself down. Not once however did I ever question our decision. Not once did I ever give up on this house.

On the 11th of February, Josh's grandma had a stroke. It happened early in the morning. It was severe, she was paralyzed on one half of her body. Being so close to her, Josh and I both agreed to drop everything and fly down to Florida. She made it through her surgery, and once we were in the clear we decided to look at the house. Valentines day, we did our first walk through of our future home. The moment we walked through the door, all the paperwork, all the stress, all the anxiety left my mind. The house was perfect. I never knew I could fall in love with something so quickly. It was almost as if we had built the house and we knew everything about it already. We walked around, just soaking in everything we saw. We walked away from that walk through knowing this was meant to be. We stayed in Florida for two weeks and then flew back up to Maryland. We had a ton of paperwork, mainly dealing with the military. Josh's contract ends on April 10th and since he just started the MEB process, they have to extend his contract. This caused more headaches than needed. We had our closing date set on March 18th. This happened to fall on the same week as our anniversary AND my birthday so we decided to fly down to Florida and celebrate them there. The day prior to closing, we did a walk through with the seller. She is absolutely amazing and has made this process so easy.

On March 18th we signed ourselves into 30 years of debt! My dad keeps telling me to look at it as an investment, and not this looming dark cloud hanging over us, but will be 2046 when we finally pay off this house! That's crazy! But we did it. Two kids from Palm Bay left at a young age, moved around the world, had amazing experiences, and are settling back in their home town. So..what does this all mean? Well, the sellers are renting from us until their house closes. Once they move out, my dad will be going in and replacing the carpet with wood floors. He is painting the front room so Josh has a man cave. He will be doing landscaping, installing front lights, and a new mailbox. Whenever Josh's VA benefits come back and he is clear to retire, we will be moving home. Projected date is August-September.

A huge thank you to all who helped us in this process. From our amazing Realtor, to my parents, to Josh' parents, and even to those select few friends that knew..thank you. Thank you to my amazing husband who was always there to listen to my frustrations or offer me a glass of wine. You are the best and I can't wait to start this new chapter with you in our home!